Structure Type: built works - social and civic buildings - correctional institutions - prisons

Designers: State of California, Department of Engineering, Department of Architecture, Sellon, George, State Architect (firm); Edward Charles Hemmings (architect); George Clinton Sellon (architect); Leonard Bernard Willeke Sr. (architect)

Dates: constructed 1878-1880

300 Prison Road
Folsom State Prison, Represa, CA 95671

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Building History

The State of California allocated funds for the construction of Folsom Prison as far back as 1858, but construction did not begin here until 1878; completion of the prison's first phase occurred in 1880 making it one of the first maximum-security facilities in the United States. (The formal opening date happened 07/26/1880 when 44 inmates were transferred here from San Quentin State Prison.) Folsom was built on the former site of the Stony Bar Mining Camp, a Gold Rush-era settlement. The Stony Bar Site was isolated from major population areas and was proximate to large supplies of granite used in fashioning the prison's structural and enclosure walls. The American River also provided a plentiful fresh water supply and the opportunity for hydroelectric dams; Folsom has the distinction of having been the first electrified prison in the U.S.

Over the years, Folsom received its share of violent felons, and it developed the reputation for being one of the state's worst prison destinations. Following particularly bad gang violence during the 1970s-1980s, the State of California Department of Corrections created other solutions for housing maximum security prisoners--most notably the concept of Secure Housing Units (SHUs)--at other locations in the state, and Folsom was converted to house medium-security Level II and III inmates. The granite walls surrounding the facility were not completely finished until the 1920s, although they were designed by California's State Architects, Sellon and Hemmings, before 1910.

Building Notes

In 2009, Folsom consisted of 9 housing units occupying about 40 acres. These units included: the Fire House (able to house 15 Level I prisoners), Minimum Camp (with 410 Level I inmates), Folsom Transitional Treatment Program (FTTP) Minimum Security Housing Unit A (200 inmates), FTTP Minimum Unit B (203), Building 5 (housing 644 Level II inmates), Building 1 (housing 1.262 Level III inmates), Building 2 (619 Level III inmates), Building 3 (798 Level III), Building 4 (276 Level III). The total capacity of this complex in 2009 was 4,422 prisoners. A staff of 1,169 supervised this population. Its budget for the 2006/2007 fiscal year was $112 million.

PCAD id: 13985